ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — The mild start to the winter weather season has been a welcomed sight by many people, but not so much by those who operate ski resorts. Little snow and lots of wind can be a brutal combination.
However, there's a window of opportunity right now with colder temperatures. For one resort in West Michigan, the start of the season might be closer than you think.
Victor Gayheart, general manager of Bittersweet Ski Resort in Allegan County, usually likes peace and quiet. Listening to the blare of snow guns, though, is a rare exception.
“It gets me up in the morning," he told FOX 17 Tuesday morning. "This is my 34th year, and it never gets old.”
Gayheart doesn't ski anymore himself, but he's always eager for the start of the season.
“That’s what we work all year for," he said. "The skiers are ready. We’re ready.”
Above-average temperatures have put that in question — until Monday night. Gayheart was finally able to flip the switch on the snow guns for the first time this season.
Still, Mother Nature is not making it easy.
“Last night was real breezy," Gayheart said. "We made snow on this run and it ended up over in the woods. So that doesn’t help us.”
Bittersweet Ski Resort blasts 210 snow guns on 12-hour shifts to cover a 120-acre hill. Gayheart said they usually need about six inches of snow at the base in order to open up for business — which he hopes will be Friday, as long as temperatures stay cold and winds are calm.
If last year is any indication, business will be booming once again.
The pandemic pushed people outside, and Bittersweet set records as a result. Typically, the resort sees up to 2,500 skiers and boarders on any given day. Last year, they hit 4,000 consistently.
"Every weekend, we sold out of rentals, we ran out of parking, we turned people away," Gayheart said.
With season passes already selling 50% above normal, this year could be much of the same.
"I think we’re headed that way for sure," he said.
It's a prediction that puts a smile on Gayheart's face. As much as he loves the low-pitched hum of snow guns, he much prefers the radiant energy of skiers and snowboarders.
Check out Bittersett Ski Resort's website for opening-day updates.
Bittersweet Ski Resort took to Facebook a day after our story aired saying their ski lifts will be in operation starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9. "We aren't sure how long this will last," they writed, "but break out your gear and we'll see you tomorrow!"